Buyers must make a greater effort to attend Birmingham’s Moda Lingerie and Swimwear trade show, industry professionals have urged, as brands claim visitor numbers tumbled this season.

The exhibition, which takes place at the NEC twice a year, is still viewed by brands as an important platform to showcase their collections to new and existing customers, but many retailers don’t seem to share this sentiment, designers, agents and brand managers have said.

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Dwindling footfall has led anchor brands like Naturana, Gossard and Vanity Fair Brands Europe to pull out of the show in recent years, and the event has shrunk in size as a result.

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Seeing that lingerie and swimwear brands were becoming less visible in a hall they shared with womenswear and accessories two seasons ago, organisers gave the show a boutique-style makeover, with its own dedicated buying space decorated with purple drapes and a Chanel-inspired entrance featuring white camellias hanging on black walls.

But, according to some brands, this wasn’t enough to tempt buyers to leave the shop floor earlier this month.

David Finlayson, director of APM Agency and founder of London’s The Lingerie Edit exhibited with boudoir brand Bluebella at this season’s show and said footfall was down on February 2016.

“I know the organisers put a lot of effort in to the overall look of the show, which was immaculate, and the promotion was good, but there seems to be a disconnect with the buyers and how to make them see the importance of trade fairs and how they will benefit from seeing new product and trends, especially when the market is so tough,” he added.

“There are certain exceptions to the rule and I would particularly highlight Marcella Louden from Silks Glasgow and Catherine Ayres from Hoopers as examples of buyers who work the show and make sure they get the best for their client base,” he continued.

“As a show organiser myself, our challenge is to make the event as interesting and inviting for buyers as possible, but there is only so much we can do and it gets frustrating when buyers don’t make the effort to maximise the opportunity you give to them.”

Warm weather and the timing of the exhibition, which took place during the school holidays, were also blamed for a lack of visitors this season.

Peter Cronin, sales and marketing director at LF Intimates said: “There was definitely less numbers attending the show across all three days.

“The sun was shining and I felt that considering what a mixed summer of weather we’ve had, it was a shame to be in doors. I’m sure there was a number of visitors who felt the same and decided to stay home. I know a few buyers I spoke to on Sunday morning took the afternoon off to make the best of the day,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Royce commercial manager Sarah Gilbert said Moda organisers could “do more” to improve footfall, by offering travel incentives for valued customers to attend the show or scheduling the event out of holiday season.

But despite its views on the exhibition as a whole, the wirefree lingerie specialist witnessed a steady flow of visitors to its stand.

“The quality of visitors to the stand was high. It gave us the opportunity to talk through our new styles and the event provided the all-important face to face contact with our valued retailers,” said Gilbert.

Stephen Morrow, Maison Lejaby’s agent for the UK & Ireland agreed: “Maison Lejaby has only exhibited in February over recent seasons, however, we felt our collections are very strong this season so we decided to showcase SS17 at Moda Lingerie & Swim this August. We weren’t disappointed!

“The show appeared to be quiet, but our stand had a steady flow of existing, returning and new buyers. Orders were taken with follow ups over the coming weeks,” he added.

“We are under no illusions that the season will still be tough but hopefully we can continue to feed off the positive reception to our collections at Moda.”

“We’ve had a lot of interest across the three days here,” says director Joe Bromley. “This is absolutely the right platform for us, and we have seen the buyers that we wanted to see.”

Angie Denapoli, who exhibited her Little White Lies swimwear and beachwear label in the boutique section of the show, was also visited by quality buyers at the SS17 session.

“Footfall was very slow but the quality of buyer attending was very strong. Being a brand that is new to swim it was a great platform to see how this sector works in comparison to the ready-to-wear side,” she said.

And while LF Intimates was concerned about hitting targets, its orders at the August show were up on the previous year.

“At the end of the day on Sunday we were up – just – against last year and we finished the show on Tuesday afternoon 5% up on orders taken against August 2015. So I was absolutely delighted,” he said.

Praising the lingerie and swimwear event, he commented: “I feel passionately that, with Moda, this industry has a professional platform to present itself. It’s not a secret that I do not feel that standing in a hotel ballroom on sticky carpet is the correct environment to project my brands’ image and I’m sure that’s the same for many other brands too.”

On its website, Moda described itself as the “industry’s key order-writing event” after three “strong days” across all trading sectors.

“Having launched a re-organised layout last season, Moda built upon the momentum of its new look show with its SS17 edition,” organisers added.